J-1 Visa Waiver Timelines: Application and Job Search Processes

Job Search process

  • Start your job search 12-18 months prior to when you can potentially start working.
  • You need to narrow down WHERE you want to work.
    • Know which state(s) you are interested in so you can figure out what all you need to apply.
    • Know which facilities are eligible (i.e. are in a HPSA or an MUA depending on the state).
  • Your visa is specific to one employer (i.e. in most instances you cannot moonlight). Ask an attorney if you have questions about this!

Once you find a job you want

  • You’re like any other resident trainee – you need a job. Once you find a job, you need to make sure you’re eligible to work at said job.
  • Let the employer know you’re looking for a visa sponsorship.
    • Facilities can ask during interview process:
      • Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?
      • Do you need visa sponsorship?
    • Facilities can ask the following follow-up questions:
      • What is your current status?
      • What visa sponsorship is needed?
      • How much time do you have left in your current status?
  • Interview.
  • You can sign an employment contract, but you cannot work until you have that waiver and the H-1B work visa.

What you need to apply

  • A job offer where your employer will sponsor your J-1 visa waiver and H-1B work visa.
  • State license – depending on the state. (e.g. Washington’s licensing process can take a while so they may grant a waiver while the license is processing so as to not slow everything down).

Application process

  • October 1 - states can start issuing J-1 waivers for the next year (This does NOT mean they MUST start this date).
    • You need to have a job in place and application complete prior to October 1. This may vary by state – check with the PCO to be sure.

Steps to the J-1 waiver process:

  1. A physician must secure a bona fide offer of employment from an employer that will sponsor the IMG for a J-1 waiver and a change into H-1B status
  2. IMG must apply for case number from the U.S. Department of State.
  3. The health care facility applies for a J-1 waiver to the State Department of Health.
  4. The state department of health (different in each state) sets guidelines that must be met to show that the physician will enhance coverage of medically at-risk populations.
    1. Ten waivers can be used for non-medically underserved placements that serve people residing in shortage areas. The state can use at their own discretion.
    2. Covers primary care and specialty care physicians. States can limit to primary care if they choose.
  5. U.S. Department of State reviews the J-1 waiver application  (4-6 weeks).
  6. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reviews J-1 waiver application and issues final approval (at least 2-6 weeks).
  7. IMG must begin work within 90 days of receiving the approval from USCIS.
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